Man of Steel. He may be the toast of New York and other places (Jacob’s Pillow and international performances), but Kyle Abraham hasn’t forgotten his roots. Those indelible Pittsburgh connections gave rise to his immensely successful The Radio Show, which he brought back in an extended, more sophisticated version in the spring. (Kyle also lost his father this summer, whose Alzheimer’s and aphasia provided some of the most poignant moments in The Radio Show.) And then he unveiled the Pinocchio-inspired, largely autobiographical Live! The Realest Emcee at his home-away-from-home, the Kelly Strayhorn, in the fall. An embarrassment of choreographic riches.
Photo by Rich Sofranko
Woman of Steel. She wasn’t on view as much as we would have liked this year. But when Erin Halloran announced her retirement just prior to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker due to serious hip problems, we realized how much she had given us over the years despite that. Now it will be almost like watching a variation of The Red Shoes as we continue to watch some of the ballets she danced in the future, with only a mental spotlight sufficing for the radiance and technical purity of this quintessential Pittsburgh ballerina.
Another Final Bow. Another sad and sudden exit as the Dance Alloy Theater board did not renew any administrative or company contracts in August, then failed to inform the community. The Kelly Strayhorn has picked up the ball that the Alloy board so unceremoniously dropped. While there won’t be a company as of yet, there is still a school…and a building. The Alloy certainly will take another form, probably a pick-up group, when it resurfaces. That will likely be in May, when hope generally springs eternal.
Yet Another Final Bow. But then, how DO you take a bow in bellydance? Gracefully, as Zafira did at the Kelly Strayhorn in October. Still, Olivia Kissel, Christine Andrews and Maria Hamer will be undulating their way along new paths, some of which will still carve a sinuous direction around Pittsburgh.
Best Ensemble. After 15 years, Attack Theatre is like a well-oiled machine. But that doesn’t mean that it’s getting creaky. Liz Chang, Michele de la Reza, Peter Kope, Simon Thomas-Train, Dane Toney and Ashley Williams are not only smooth and seamless, but they collectively bring it, my friends, to every performance. A joy to watch.
Dance Party. I love it when dancers take charge, which was what happened at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Dancers Trust benefit. It’s always been a showcase by the dancers for company members to do something different and benefit their inevitable career transitions. This year, though, they had a genuine sense of showmanship, comedy and sheer fun — a ballet hat trick that is a rarity.
Discovery Channel. Staycee Pearl has struck the mother lode in her exploration of award-winning writer Octavia Butler. Some call it sci-fi, but Staycee calls it Afrofuturism (or Magical Realism), which suits Staycee to a “T.” ( Look it up.) We met for a long-overdue conversation in the delightful Kazandra’s Cafe, conveniently located right next to the Kelly Strayhorn where Staycee is a resident artist.
Turnaround. I always say a good dancer should be able to hold an audience with his or her back. Zach Kapeluck took that idea to another dimension at Point Park University’s performing in September’s Student Choreography Project. As the opening lights shined down on him, they picked up a well-defined musculature that doubly impressed when he turned around. As I noted on CrossCurrents, he went from a budding classical dance poet the year before to something akin to a dancing Navy Seal. His artistic range should serve him well in the future.
Prix-ty Terrific. In 2011 Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School sent its first contestant to compete in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland…and its second. They were the lovely Anwen David and Aviana Adams, who represented the city with grace and aplomb.
Late Bloomer. Gia Cacalano has been improvising for years in Pittsburgh, but she was a cult figure and well-kept secret that flew under the radar. So it seems as if she has just truly burst onto the scene, with cutting edge performances at the Space Upstairs, SPACE and the Wood Street Galleries. That means both music and dance unfold in the moment in these juicy, shifting collaborations.
Fresh Bouquet. For the second year in a row, Pittsburgh dance is expanding. Pittsburgh fave Alan Obuzor debuted Texture Contemporary Ballet, while EVOLVE Productions, well, evolved by adding Continuum Dance Theater. Phinehas Hodges has a New Hazlett Theater series, “Speaking of…,” that relies heavily on young poets, of course, and dance companies and, speaking of young, Jaime Murphy and Renee Smith started the Murphy/Smith Dance Collective. Dance on!
At the Movies. I know this is technically a production company, but Emerging Pictures has expanded its coverage of international ballet and that means seeing some of the world’s greatest dancers, like Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg. Okay, maybe they’re on film, but they still pack a great artistic wallop. Catch upcoming events at The Oaks in Oakmont, but also Carmike theaters in Bethel Park, Altoona and Greensburg. I mean, really, when will the Bolshoi ever bourree into our immediate vicinity? Even the New York City Ballet, which is a heckuva lot closer, leaped into the pool with a simulcast (and an all-star cast) of its “Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center. Yes, digital is the way to go. Besides, it saves on touring costs.